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The Wall Street Journal: China tightens tech export rules, complicating potential TikTok sale

The Wall Street Journal

Even with U.S. owner, technology would likely cross borders

Microsoft Corp., Walmart Inc. and Oracle Corp. have all expressed interest in buying TikTok.

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China announced new restrictions on artificial-intelligence technology exports that could further complicate the sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations, while intensifying the tech battle between the world’s two largest economies.

The new restrictions, unveiled Friday by China’s ministries in charge of commerce and science and technology, cover such computing and data-processing technologies as text analysis, content recommendation, speech modeling and voice-recognition. Technologies on the list can’t be exported without a license from local commerce authorities.

The new restrictions could throw a wrench into talks between Chinese tech firm ByteDance Ltd. and potential buyers, as the owner of TikTok faces pressure from the White House to quickly sell the popular short-video app’s U.S. operations or face an effective ban.

On Saturday, China’s official Xinhua News Agency quoted a government trade adviser as saying that ByteDance should study the new export list and “seriously and cautiously” consider whether or not it should halt its sales negotiations.

ByteDance owes its success internationally to China’s domestic technology prowess and providing updated algorithms to firms overseas is a form of technology export, the adviser—University of International Business and Economics professor Cui Fan—told Xinhua. That means that no matter who is the new operator of ByteDance’s international business, there likely will be some cross-border technology transfer, he said.

An expanded version of this report appears on

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